If the concept of Dry January sounds appealing, but you're a little hesitant to commit to a full 30 days without alcohol, I feel you. It can be fun to celebrate a special occasion with a tasty mixed drink, or simply unwind from the week with a glass of your favorite wine. But 2019 just might be your year to give the resolution a try, because the benefits of Dry January, whether you make it all the way to Jan. 31 or hop off somewhere in the middle, are no joke, according to the results of a new study.
The study, which comes from researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK, looked at 800 people who took part in Dry January in 2018, as per a press release from the university. After completing three different surveys, the participants' responses showed that, not only did they benefit from their alcohol-free month at the beginning of the year, but even during the following August, many people were reporting an extra "dry" day each week, meaning the effects can last long after you begin to drink again. And even if you have a beer or two somewhere around, say, Jan. 20, you won't go completely back to square one — not health-wise, at least.
“Interestingly, these changes in alcohol consumption have also been seen in the participants who didn’t manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month — although they are a bit smaller," Dr. Richard De Visser, the study's lead researcher, said in a statement for the University of Sussex's press release. "This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January.”
So what exactly are these magical benefits? First of all, you'll probably save a good chunk of money if you choose to do Dry January, which could come in handy right after the gift-giving frenzy of the holiday season. A whopping 88 percent of people surveyed in the UK study said that they had saved money by changing their drinking habits, which honestly makes total sense to anyone who's ever paid more than $10 for a single drink.
You'll probably notice an improvement in your relationships during Dry January, too, says Dr. Nicole Issa, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. But, she explains, this benefit doesn't just apply to folks who find that drinking is a glaring issue in their friendships or romantic relationships. "For those who do not necessarily notice that their alcohol use is negatively impacting their relationships," Dr. Issa tells Elite Daily, "they may find that the quality of conversation improves, or that they are engaging in different, more productive activities with friends, significant others, and family members."
The simple act of taking the time to assess how alcohol fits into your everyday life can have a huge impact on your overall well-being, says Dr. Elisa Assadi, family physician at Copeman Healthcare Centre Vancouver. "Dry January can yield healthy results if used as an opportunity to assess your overall relationship with alcohol," she explains. In fact, the University of Sussex study found that 82 percent of people surveyed thought more deeply about their relationship with drinking after embarking on the challenge, so who knows — your entire outlook really could change after the experience.
To take advantage of this particular benefit, try to be mindful about how your time alcohol-free makes you feel, and — once you do start drinking again — think carefully about what you're putting in your body, Dr. Assadi tells Elite Daily.
In addition to a whole host of physical health benefits, like improved hydration levels, healthier skin, and even boosted energy levels, trying out Dry January could also be a great way to help fulfill your resolutions to get better sleep in the new year, the UK study found. In fact, 71 percent of participants in the research reported sleeping better as a result of their alcohol breaks, which sounds practically magical to me, aka someone who literally gets excited about the simple prospect of going to sleep each night.
In even better news, you probably won't have to wait until midway through the month to start noticing some of these benefits. "The timeline for feeling better will vary from person to person," licensed psychologist Kelifern Pomeranz tells Elite Daily, "but individuals should start to physically feel better within the the first few days after they quit, as alcohol does not stay in the body for long."
The best part of all, though, IMO, is that you'll likely walk away from Dry January feeling like a total boss, regardless of what the month actually looks like for you in the end, according to Dr. Issa. "Participating in Dry January will give you a sense of accomplishment, increased self-confidence, and the ability to go into the new year feeling better able to tackle challenges," she explains. "You will be better able to meet future goals."